"It's the closest thing to who I am that I've ever done." So writes Annie Lebowitz in the prologue to her collection entitled A Photographer's Life: 1999-2005. As I took a quiet walk through the gift shop at the Dallas Museum of Art last week (I was waiting on the fantastic fish tacos from their deli, which are my excuse to get out of the office for twenty minutes and enter this place that is so serene, in contrast with my frenetic work life) I saw this ten-pound tome and decided it was time I owned this particular not-your-grandma's coffee table book.
Soothing it's not, although it's clear Lebowitz didn't set out to be provocative. Rather, she's honest, which can be even more affecting--and thus just as uncomfortable--to the viewer. In addition to her best commercial work, she included deeply personal photographs.
So you'll see Brad Pitt in snakeskin boots and animal print pants, Las Vegas showgirls in costume and not. Then O.J. Simpson looking directly at the lens across a courtroom as he leaves during one day of his trial back in 1994. (You tell me what's in those eyes. I've looked at it for a long, long time but can't decide.) Then a gorgeous portrait of her parents, faces lined with lives lived well, on their fiftieth wedding anniversary, followed by incredibly tender pictures of her lover going through cancer treatment and her father in his last days.
Most of us divide our lives into segments of work, love, grief and joy. The great accomplishment of this book is that Lebowitz is so very brave to put them all together.